In an ongoing series of articles, IBM and subject matter experts discuss the importance of clean core solutions. Among the views to date: Clean Core is about code modernization as well as challenges found in the lack of data quality and consistency; process harmonization; and process agility. (See previous commentaries: Data Drives Key Business Outcomes: The Trick Is Getting the Foundation Right and Clean Core Solutions and Philosophy: Essential to SAP S/4HANA Adoption.)
Here the problem-approach discussion dives more deeply into process agility--one of the foundational reasons for a modern clean core approach to tackle the heritage issues of SAP and business process lock-in.

Problem #1: Process agility has always been a challenge in how SAP solutions were designed and built. The over-engineering of the systems led to system-driven ways of working that didn’t really represent current or intended ways of working. The result: a lock-in type approach.

For most organizations, the answer has been to start again with a greenfield implementation. Yet, as noted in previous perspectives, this is not always the best approach. Indeed for more organizations on the move to SAP S/4HANA, greenfield is no longer the default. Most now adopt more hybrid approaches that use solutions such as Rapid Move from IBM in collaboration with our partner, SNP.

Problem #2: Business functions, as a reaction to the lack of agility and alignment between the heritage-SAP and aspirational ways to work, make silo-decisions. The impact? A shift away from ERP-centricity to a best-of-breed mix that can include Salesforce, Blue Yonder, with SAP more as a backbone.

This is not without complexity. A multi-solution mix heightens integration and the need for unified data models (UDM). And it’s not just technical integration, it’s also process orchestration that becomes more important.

Of course technical integrated solutions can be deployed. The challenge becomes how to measure end-to-end process efficiency and/or effectiveness? Just as important, how do organizations ensure they continuously benchmark, improve, and optimize versus just integrating the systems in the landscape? This is where the key role of process orchestration and the capabilities provided by SAP Workflow Management solutions, part of the Process Automation suite, can enter in.

This problem was also a key factor cited in ASUG 2022 Pulse of the SAP Customer research. In results related to key challenges survey respondents experienced in their SAP S/4HANA journeys, 15% noted incompatibility between products, while 12% said tools selection. Additionally, with more applications, other challenges were cited including more updates, noted by 10%, and update challenges, by 5%. What’s more, throw in issues like distributed development, or the lack of it, then the shift to more heterogenous application landscapes can be very challenging in defining the right enterprise architecture and maintainability practices. (Here you’ll find more detailed highlights from the 2022 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer Research cited above.)

Problem #3: Organizations want to embrace SAP S/4HANA as a truly business transformation opportunity--not just a revised use of a transactional system.

When organizations tackle process design to drive the business of tomorrow, they seek orchestrated (not just integrated) end-to-end enterprise processes with embedded intelligence. They also seek to simpler, smarter, more connected digitalized processes, that redefine the ways of working with more productive user behaviors and, ultimately, improved business outcomes.

Again, this need to redefine ways of working surfaced in the ASUG Pulse study. Shifting to more standardized and automated ways of working was the goal for 50% of the respondents; 36% said the primary goal was to shift from manual to digital processes.

Overcome the Obstacles

Based on experience and, together with SAP, there are opportunities to overcome the challenges described above, helping organizations change from a transactional orientation into Intelligent Enterprises with Intelligent Workflow solutions for SAP. These are powered by SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP), specifically SAP Workflow Management.

Since its inception, the IBM Evolution Partnership with SAP[1] has focused on intelligent solutions based on BTP to drive industry innovations that underpin Industry Cloud solutions.

An example helps convey the promise and progress. In work with Industrial Machinery organizations in end-to-end workflows, like lead-to-cash that sit above the likes of Salesforce, Ms Dynamics, CPQ, and Pricing Engines, as well as SAP. Then, embedded with AI and improved automation, processes, such as outcome-based billing, intelligent pricing, intelligent product configuration, and others can be optimized.

RISE with SAP for Industrial Manufacturing

Keys to Reorientation

There are key principles in this reorientation from transactional excellence to intelligent end-end workflow solutions that relate to process architecture. These include:

  1. Adopt a de-coupled architecture. This lets the same process be adopted irrespective of the underlying application found in modern complex application landscapes.
  2. Create Digital Twins of the Process. Use orchestration solutions, like SAP Workflow Management, to do the technical design out the end-to-end flows, linking the steps in the process (via composable services) to the source system APIs. This supports true process composability; the agility needed to change things without re-engineering the underlying core application; and adherence to clean core principles.
  3. Embed Moments that Matter into the process flows. These are the steps in the process with potentially the biggest opportunity to simplify how work gets done through embedding automation or developing rules or machine learning models to augment end-user decisions and achieve more precise outcomes. This can have a direct impact of to improve KPIs.

    Working with process optimization teams that every day run processes like finance, procurement, order management, on behalf of companies across the globe, we’ve captured Moments that Matter from more than 400 client conversations and engagements. The moments that shift manual work to more automated and intelligent outcomes powered, by data and AI, are built into template end-to-end process models and solutions. SAP that matters for Manufacturers
  4. Implement a model-to-mining culture of continuous optimization. Just modelling and executing a process is good, but it doesn’t fulfil the full process optimization lifecycle. Adopting a true model-to-mining ethos, using Process Control Tower solutions, support a shift to continuous advisory, benchmarking the performance using SAP Signavio to give the business process insights that drive continuous productivity and effectiveness improvements.

When undertaking “Big-T” Business Transformation, shifting from manual to digital processes is more complicated than creating a few SAP Fiori’s. Likewise, simply automating inefficient processes leads to underachievement, perhaps a lower quartile outcome a bit cheaper and faster. It’s far easier to automate consistent harmonized processes than the thousands of variants in current use prior to clean core approaches.

The shift to Intelligent Enterprise requires:

  • The ability to drive true process agility
  • Work orchestrated across a hybrid application landscape
  • Process Control Tower use, to not just see what’s happening in real-time, but to react and drive continuous optimization for the highest levels of productivity and efficiency gains.

Whether amidst or heading into an SAP S/4HANA journey, don’t underestimate the importance of both clean core and the use of Process Control Towers to enable the true orchestration of work and drive intelligent, end-to-end outcomes that are the foundation for redefining the new ways of working.

Allan Coulter is IBM Consulting Global Chief Technology Officer for SAP Services and Scott Koren is Associate Partner, IBM Consulting, Business Transformation Services.

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